Nokia N800 Internet Tablet

N800 imageQ: Is the Nokia N800 a PDA, a smart phone, a UMPC, or a media player? A: I don't care. A friend recently got one and I wanted to pass along a few tips, so I'll just write here so others can read them too.

Imagine Nokia building a device that can't connect to the cell phone network. This handheld device connects to WiFi 802.11b/g and Bluetooth. As a web and email tablet it includes an Opera web browser with good support of web features like Javascript, Shockwave, etc., and a mail client supporting POP and IMAP. You can do a lot with it that you couldn't do with a smart phone, PDA, or Blackberry. A recent software update added Skype software so now it's also a Wifi phone. And it has a webcam for web conferencing.

As a media player it plays MP3's and other audio formats through surprisingly good sounding speakers for their size, or headphones. It plays MP4 and RealVideo videos, and youtube. It comes with several Internet radio stations including BBC World Service preprogrammed, and you can add your own channels for one click tuning. A software update I received added FM radio capability. I enjoy browsing music at emusic.com, untethered from a desk, and downloading my selections to the Nokia for later transfer to iPod.

With the file manager I can browse files on the built-in flash memory and on two SD memory cards (one included). I can also browse photos on my Bluetooth enabled camera cell phone and transfer them to the Nokia, where I can sort out my favorites on its larger screen, and upload them to Kodak Gallery. When I plug the Nokia into my PC with a USB cable its SD memory cards appear on the PC desktop like USB memory sticks. If you'll be using it as a media player, buy a second SD card. 1GB ones are very cheap right now.

For travel it's a lot nicer than lugging a laptop computer around. At business meetings I always need access to web, email, and PDF documents, and to take notes. How many times have I needed to use a spreadsheet in the last 5 years? Once. If the need ever arises again I'll go to the hotel business center. Until then the Nokia is all I need. I use a Stowaway Sierra Bluetooth keyboard. It folds up smaller than a paperback book, unfolds to a full size keyboard with real key travel, and pairs easily with the Nokia. The Nokia runs debian Linux, and I got Xterminal and ssh software for it. So I can remotely log into larger computers and transfer files.

Most of the software for it you just select from the included GUI application manager and the packages are automatically downloaded and installed. Some software, for which Nokia doesn't assume responsibility, you need to go to maemo.org to look around and download what you want. Sometimes clicking on a package in the web browser brings up the software manager and installs it for me. Sometimes I've needed to save the package to a file and then click on it.

For text input when not using a keyboard, be sure to go into handwriting training to specify how you make your letters, as this improves comprehension dramatically. Though the included stylus is pretty good as styli go, it's much nicer to use a real Cross pen, PDA version, which you can get from office supply stores. It guesses words pretty well, so after you've written a few letters look down at the bottom to see if the word you want is one of its choices. If so you can just tap on it to complete the word.

Something I didn't realize for a long time was that the long white space to the right of the word choices is the space bar. Tap on it after you finish a word and it inserts a space and clears the text input area so you won't run out of room. You can correct letters just by writing over them, and erase letters just by crossing them out. If you're entering lots of symbols, switch to the on-screen keyboard at least temporarily. For short entries you'll seldom be tempted to unfold the Bluetooth keyboard.

Here are a couple of good reviews of the Nokia N800 with more information:

 





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I am a software engineer in San Diego, president of the Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (spec.org), formerly a mathematician and a violist.

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